The Belong Network Launch

Author: Belong Manager
Published: October 31, 2019

The Belong Network Launch

 Work to build stronger, more integrated communities has never been more important. The Government is proud to support this. It is a vital network as it builds capability amongst community leaders and connects those who are developing and delivering cohesion and integration programmes to share learning and best practice” Viscount Younger of Leckie, Minister for Communities and Faith

We were delighted to welcome Lord Younger, the Minister for Communities and Faith, to formally launch Belong – The Cohesion and Integration Network on Thursday 10th October at the University of Manchester. The new Cohesion and Integration Network, has been set up with support from the Ministry for Housing Communities and local Government, the Savannah Wisdom Foundation and Manchester City Council as a founding member. Councillor Sue Murphy, deputy leader of Manchester City Council welcomed the new national charity and membership organisation to the city:

‘As one of its founding members, we look forward to working with the network to shape and collaborate with others from across the private, public and community sectors and build the profile of Manchester.  This is a real opportunity to showcase best practice from across the country and learn more about programmes that have been successful in building community cohesion and integration’

David Jones, Leader of Bury Council and portfolio lead for social cohesion for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority also emphasised Greater Manchester’s leadership on this issue, remembering the response of the people of Greater Manchester to the Arena Attack coming together to fight hatred and extremism and to unite together as a diverse, inclusive and welcoming place.

As part of Belong’s offer to the city we are offering free membership to all civil society organisations delivering cohesion and integration work based in Manchester until March 2020.

Belong Trustees, Professor Ted Cantle, (Chair of the board of trustees and a thought leader on community cohesion), Shalni Arora, (a commissioner on the Manchester Our Shared Futures report following the Manchester Arena Attack) and Michelle Lawrence (CEO of the Great British Community) welcomed everyone to the network and the launch event and we were treated to some brilliant spoken word ‘The Town that Raised me’ from Saleha Latif, youth ambassador for Ail Saath, the Slough based youth led cohesion charity.

And we were delighted that Jane Lady Gibson, Chair of Spirit of 2012, announced their support for the network with a grant for the development of an evaluation toolkit to improve the practice of cohesion and integration work.

The launch followed Belong’s first conference ‘Leading on Integration’ where peers, experts and practitioners on the frontline of leadership on integration shared their experience and expertise on four key themes : Improving Places, Developing PeopleMeasuring and Developing What Works, and Inspiring Integration through Arts and Sports.

Feedback from the conference has been really positive, and shows the need for future events like this:

“So exciting to see this coming together. it provides a much wider framing for the work we have been successfully developing.”

”It was great to network and see that people are still trying to make a difference with limited resources…”

“We really appreciate the existence of the Cohesion and Integration Network and look forward to it growing.”

“I personally look forward to seeing Belong – the Cohesion and Integration Network grow from strength to strength as it brings people together to solve complex integration challenges in local communities.”

The conference and launch would not have been possible without the support of the University of Manchester who have joined us as a member. We are continuing to welcome new members to the network and have some exciting plans for development including our Winter Events and Training Programme. In these uncertain times leadership which develops connections and strengthens resilience, inclusion and a sense of belonging is more important than ever. We hope that you will join us to build a stronger more integrated and less divided society.